The goal I wish I'd scored: Rooney v Man City
It’s one of the most famous strikes in Manchester United’s history.
Wayne Rooney’s incredible overhead-kick against City in 2011 was not only enough to win the 158th edition of the Manchester derby - it also later went on to claim the club’s Goal of the Decade award, plus a special Premier League gong for the finest effort in the first 20 years of the rebranded top-flight.
As many as five past and present Reds have also selected it as the goal they wished they’d scored, as part of an ongoing United Review feature which celebrates us hitting the 10,000-goal mark earlier this season.
So, just why was that Rooney goal so special? His former strike-partner Dimitar Berbatov kicks us off…
“You know, this is an easy choice for me. Of all the United goals I’ve ever seen, I can say straight away that I would like to have scored the bicycle-kick that Wazza scored against City. What a great goal, what unbelievable technique, in a derby against one of our biggest rivals who were also going for the Premier League title with us. It was an important goal, coming quite late in the game, it was at Old Trafford, and really it just had all the conditions for the perfect goal.
“Nani had the ball on the right wing, he put in a cross and it hit the City defender – [Pablo] Zabaleta, I think – and that changed the course of the ball. If it hadn’t deflected, then it might not have been a goal. The ball wouldn’t have been at the same height or dropping in the same way or in the same place, and City’s defenders were ready for the cross going into the middle, so they might have cleared it and the chance could have gone.
“But it did deflect, and from that point on, it becomes all about one thing: what you decide to do next. Not many people would attempt what Wazza did. This is a special goal which requires a special set of skills and you need to be brave enough to pull off something like this. Of course, Wazza is a brave player and person who is never afraid to try something.
“In that moment, you’re not expecting him to do what he does, of course, but when you see him jump up in the air and realise that he’s going to be attempting the bicycle-kick, you just know it’s going to end up in the back of the net. When you see him going up and then you see the connection, you just know, in that instant, that it’s a goal. The goalkeeper just freezes. What else can he do? There’s nothing he could do about it, you know?
“Then everybody just goes crazy. The players, the fans, the whole stadium goes crazy because nobody can believe what they’ve just seen. To be on the pitch when Wazza did that, for me, it was just unbelievable. If you ask Wazza, this one would probably be ranked as one of the very best of his career, I’m sure. He’s United’s all-time leading scorer so he has a lot to choose from, but this one might be the very best of them all. Definitely, if there was one goal I could have scored, that would have been it. No doubt at all.”
Classic Match: United 2 Man City 1Video
“I’ll never forget Wayne’s overhead-kick. Ever. It stands out for me by a mile. I wasn’t at the game, but I was definitely watching at home. Nani’s cross took a slight deflection, Rooney opened his body and just went ‘bang’. It was just instinct, you know. He adapted to it [the deflection]. A lot of players would just let the ball slide and go to the next man, but he thought, ‘no, I’ll challenge it.’ The next moment, the keeper’s stood still. Ball’s in the top corner. I think he had so much adrenaline in him he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know what celebration to have because he was just so pumped. Being that pumped... there’s no better feeling. It was just how big the game was, too. City had started to become a better team, and they were really challenging us. To then just settle things again with that moment, it was just massive.”
“I think it would have to be Rooney against City. For a start, it was in a derby game, which means it was a huge game with a lot at stake. So, to score such an exceptional goal at that point, which basically guaranteed the victory, honestly, for me it was just incredible. It wasn’t very easy at all to score that goal and, honestly speaking, it was just a magnificent finish, absolutely magnificent, and to top it all it was at Old Trafford. So yes, for me it was just the perfect goal. I’ve scored overhead-kicks in training, but nothing like that in a game. It would be amazing to score that kind of goal in a huge match like Wayne did!”
Ranked: Our top 10 goals v City at homeVideo
“My goal against City earlier this year was the last one scored at Old Trafford before fans were stopped from attending games, but it was nowhere near as good as Wayne’s overhead-kick. I was there and I just remember the feeling I had inside the stadium. Being in the crowd that day when Wayne scored, it was amazing and I will never forget it. I was sat with Ian Buckingham, the kitman, and a few of the other young lads, and it was so incredible, so good. It is genuinely one of the best feelings I have ever had in the stadium, when I’ve not been playing myself. Could I score it myself? With my long legs, if I can get them up there! I’d like to think I could see that, one day, and hopefully get it on the highlights reel in five years’ time maybe!”
“[Cristiano] Ronaldo’s free-kick against Portsmouth was incredible, as were some of the goals the lads have scored through the years – Scholesy against Barcelona here in the semi-final, for example – but I’d never even try that Rooney overhead-kick! I wouldn’t go anywhere near that, I wasn’t good enough: I’d do my back in! To score that goal, in a derby game, was just incredible really. If I’d scored something like that, my reaction would be totally unbelievable and incredible. It’s something a full-back wouldn’t try in the first place, but the technique and where it went in as well… as I said, the nature of it and the fact it was against your rivals, it was just incredible. I’d still be celebrating that goal now if I’d scored that!”
This feature originally appeared in the Manchester City edition of United Review, available to purchase now.